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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

What is Social Anxiety and Where Does It Come From?

Socializing with others can feel intimidating, and worrying about what others think can be overwhelming. When these concerns become so big that they begin to affects everyday life - including work, school and daily routines - this is called social anxiety.

Social anxiety is also sometimes called social phobia and prevents people from interacting with the world in a way that feels comfortable for them.

Social anxiety is far different from shyness. Yes, anxiety is normal, to a degree - it’s our body’s way of telling us that something might be wrong. Social anxiety is when this nervous system response doesn’t shut off. It isn’t shyness, it’s a difficulty overcoming our body’s fear response - and socializing with others is linked to this fear.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of social anxiety can present as physical and psychological. Social anxiety may present as a fear of being judged by others or of humiliation. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Difficulty talking

  • Dizziness

  • Increased heart rate

  • Intense worry

  • Social avoidance

  • Using alcohol to face socialization

  • Missing school or work because of anxiety

Where Social Anxiety Comes From

The causes of social anxiety can be many. Widely accepted research supports the theory that social phobias stem from environmental and genetic factors. There are some negative life experiences that can cause social anxiety. These might include emotional abuse, sexual abuse, inner family conflict, and bullying.


The debate about social anxiety and family history typically focuses on learned behaviors. For example, a mother might have anxiety. She may or may not seek treatment for that anxiety.

Her child, while living with her from day to day, stands a good chance of learning and adopting their mother’s anxious coping mechanisms. While there may be some genetics at play, it’s equally likely that it results from these learned behaviors.


There are also some physical anomalies that can account for social anxiety. Serotonin imbalances are a widely accepted cause. This neurochemical helps us regulate mood. It’s created in the amygdala, which is the part of our brain that controls our fear response.

So when our amygdala is frequently activated because of a fear response, it becomes a learned and ingrained reaction to stress.

Environmental causes

The environmental causes of social anxiety are staggeringly many. Cultural and religious upbringing, family composition, and experiences during childhood all shape our anxiety responses.

Trauma has been shown to increase the likelihood of social anxiety later in life. These causes can vary even further based on gender, sexuality, social standing, and financial stability.

Getting Help with Social Anxiety

The treatment options for social anxiety have grown significantly in recent years. As the stigma around mental illness decreases, more and more people are finding relief through various treatments.

  • Better sleep: Finding professionals to help you deal with your quality of sleep which can significantly affect symptoms of social anxiety and your ability to cope

  • Better nutrition: Consulting with nutrition professionals to make sure you’re consuming enough of the right nutrients to help your brain process and deal with social anxiety

  • Group therapy: Taking part in group therapy to learn social skills and techniques and help you become more comfortable is social situations

  • Talk therapy: Talking with a professional therapist about your symptoms, past situations which may have caused them, and finding ways to move forward with a better quality of life.

To learn more about how therapy can help with social anxiety, reach out today and schedule a phone consultation.

For more information on anxiety therapy, check out the link.


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